ERFD christens new regional training facility, honors Emerson

Dave Lein, Editor

Photo by Dave Lein

A special monument to Tom Emerson was unveiled during last Sunday’s open house and dedication ceremony for the Elk Rapids Fire Department’s new training facility. Emerson passed away suddenly in May.


REGION – There were tears and laughter; sorrow and joy. And a lot of hugs.

That was the scene last Sunday, Oct. 7 at the Elk Rapids Fire Department’s open house for its new training facility off Hermann Road in Elk Rapids Township.

The highlight of the celebration – attended by about 50 fire, EMS and law enforcement personnel from throughout the county and beyond – was the facility’s dedication in honor of Tom Emerson.

Emerson, who came up with the original idea for a regional training facility, passed away suddenly in May from a brain aneurism. At the time of his death, Emerson was the Elk Rapids Chief of Police and served on the Elk Rapids Fire Department.

Emerson came to the Elk Rapids Police Department (ERPD) in 2011 after retiring at the rank of captain from a distinguished 26-year career with the Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Office.

One day after his passing, Elk Rapids Village Manager Bill Cooper praised Emerson’s personal and professional impact on the area and its residents.

“He continued to serve with distinction at the village, maintaining unwavering professionalism,” said Cooper. “He earned and held the respect of his officers, fellow department heads and management – and the village council. He did a lot for this community, and his loss has created a big void to fill.”

A native of the Grand Traverse area, Emerson was married to his wife Vickie for more than 30 years and was, according to Cooper, “deeply proud” of his daughter Erica, a student at Elk Rapids High School.

Besides serving as police chief, Emerson had extensive training as a firefighter – serving for many years with the Grand Traverse Rural Fire Department, and later with the Elk Rapids Fire Department. One week prior to his death, Emerson was officially recognized with the department’s “Firefighter of the Year” honor during a special community awards ceremony on May 3.

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